06/24/2015 09:30 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT

B.C. blueberries bound for China in $65M deal

Blueberries from British Columbia may soon be shipped to China thanks to a deal worth up to $65 million a year, expected to be finalized this fall.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast Fast announced the deal alongside B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on the edge of a blueberry field at Westberry Farms in Abbotsford, B.C. on Wednesday.

"This is great news for B.C.'s world-class blueberries," said Fast, noting that China is the most populous country in the world.

The summer fruit is already a $110-million business in British Columbia, which is the largest blueberry region in the world, stretching from Richmond to Agassiz.

Rapidly growing economies

Letnick said the deal is important because fresh berries fetch a higher price than the frozen variety, and there's potential for more trade with China, as one of the world's fastest growing economies.

"It's important for us to be in the right market and the right time," Letnick said. "We will continue to try to expand the Chinese market."

But the province and the federal government have bigger plans for the crop. Fast said they also hope to introduce B.C. blueberries to India and Southeast Asia.  

"These are rapidly growing economies," Fast said, referring to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

"I was just in Philippines, and they are very interested in opening up their market to our products, especially blueberries," he said.

Last year, B.C. produced about 65,500 tonnes of the berries, which are Canada's largest fruit export in terms of value and volume.